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João Vasco Paiva_Ecological Reduction





In João Vasco Paiva’s most recent major exhibition, entitled “Experiments on the Notation of Shapes” (2010), two projections and a video monitor trace sonic and visual routes through the streets and across the skyline of Hong Kong, simultaneously mediating and abstracting the architectonic composition of the city. This immersive environment, constructed through the arrangement of framed screens and speakers, serves to implicate the viewer in the translation of a scaled physical logic into a perceptual text: on the one hand, the pure visual flatness n of the vertically projected still shots is algorithmically processed into generative linear sound, while on the other the mobility of the camera on the horizontally oriented monitor understands the terrain of the street as a “sculptural playground,” in the words of the artist. This last element, the engine of inertia for the installation as a whole, actually grows out of another earlier project by the artist, a particular type of sound walk called “Ecological Reduction.” In that piece, presented as a field recording, Paiva built an instrument out of one of the pushcarts commonly used to haul freight on the streets of Hong Kong; with the aid of both contact and stereo microphones, a physically strenuous walk plays the role of a needle on an oversized record of improvisation. For “Experiments,” the addition of a video camera further converts the space of the city to a set of parameters ripe for mediation.

 

João Vasco Paiva_Experiments on the Notation of Shapes_2010




João Vasco Paiva_Sea of Mountains



This transition towards ever further abstracted parameters of exploration lends itself well to formalism, the interrogation of which can function both within and through the frame of artistic practice. In his latest project, currently untitled but referred to as “Forced Empathy,” Paiva takes this development literally, attempting to configure the relationship between frame and lens in a choreography of conceptual syncopation. A series of objects, typically unrecognizable geometric shapes, are placed on platforms floating offshore, thus subject to wind, waves, and other factors that cause these objects to bob and sway, sometimes gently but other times rather wildly; a stationary camera records the movement. When edited, the object of recording is computationally “forced” to remain stable and equidistant from all edges of the frame, such that the background environment inversely adopts the motion of the floating platform and takes on the role of visual noise. There is again a process of architectonic abstraction at work here, as the entire system of representational object-functions is reduced to a setting blithely following the forceful object at the center of the frame. And the valorous commitment to an evaluation of the limits and potentials of visual strategy through the mechanisms of environmental instrumentation is again key to this project; what is new with this video work is an implicit critique of the status of the monument, ideologically delimited by a reversal of the conventions of framing. As with the process of algorithmic abstraction implied by “Experiments,” here it is the ideal of modernism that almost humorously becomes subject to a certain process of liquefaction through the rigidity of the framed screen. Importantly, “Forced Empathy” itself grew out of the earlier piece “Sea of Mountains, which, like “Ecological Reduction,” turned environmental input into a generative composition. In this case, however, a changing image of harbor water is taken as the origin, while output is conceived as a rather unstructured piece piano music. The major aesthetic flaw of this work, perhaps obviously, is the lack of relationship between input and output; in “Forced Empathy,” on the other hand, input is analogically equivalent to output, freeing up the visual track of the final result to suggest an open range of cultural associations beyond the predictable if randomized one-to-one correspondence of the earlier component. This ambiguity places the artificially stabilized monument of the modern firmly within the compositionally static but parametrically evolving frame of contemporary vision: a concentrated assault on the very origins of this mediated practice.










Robin Peckham

 

Robin Peckham is a writer and curator based in the Pearl River Delta,
currently researching international rhetorics of abstract painting and
the historical foundations of pseudo-conceptual art in China.

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Posted by EYEBALL_Media Arts Webzine


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